As we move a little deeper into off-season action, it might be getting more apparent that neither of our Chicago teams will make a strong case to sign speedy, multi-position free agent lead-off man Chone Figgins.
One school of thought has it that the Cubs won't make a run on Figgins because that already have too much committed salary (around$120 million) for next year, and probably will have to commit even more to re-signing other players who have filed or are expected to file for free agency--Rich Harden, Reed Johnson and John Grabow being some examples. The Tribune reported that Harden and Johnson already filed for free agent status.
I think the Cubs should wave good-bye to both at this point. While Harden is spectacular in short stretches, he doesn't go deep enough in most games. His health issues have lessened, but that makes his 4.00-plus ERA for the 2009 campaign even more troubling. Maybe the Cubs could go after a non-glitzy bottom-rotation known for relaiability, like Joel Piniero, who was great for the Cardinals in '09. As for Grabow, the Cubs need the southpaw in the bullpen.
Johnson has a lot of defensive value and the scrappiness factor that so often defines winning teams, but he is already 32. If the Cubs do unload Milton Bradley and don't sign another outfielder (Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir aside), Johnson probably would be worth keeping. I'm back to suspecting the Cubs may keep Bradley, despite the reports of interest in him elsewhere. The Cubs may assume the worst is over with Bradley, though it's hard to believe that until we see it.
The Cubs seem indecisive about offensive contributors/defensive liabilities Fox and Hoffpauir, which make me think we will see another season of spot duty for both, though there is potential that an American League team could make an offer for Fox (a potentially great DH) that the Cubs won't be able to refuse. All of this, plus new owners, suggests no Figgins for the Cubs.
The Sox, meanwhile, might be more interested in giving Jordan Danks an outfield job than spending money on Figgins. I wouldn't mind taking a gamble on Danks (who may feel at home with his brother in the dugout) and keeping the resurgent Scott Podsednik as an insurance policy, but it sounds like the Sox don't have much interest in re-signing Pods (visions of 2006, I guess).
Signing Figgins would end all outfield questions (except whether or not Alex Rios actually will hit next year). But, the Sox might making signing a new DH a higher priority, unless Carlos Quentin moves into that role. though that again would heighten the need to sign a player like Figgins.